It is such a positive feel moving out of winter and into spring, ever so slowly we start to see growth from the turf and recovery from a winter defined by very high levels of golf. Our winter wasn’t a particularly wet season this time around but as I discussed a couple of months back when it did rain the downfall was significant and really had an impact on the land.
There is no point in discussing the impact short, cold days and heavy footfall has on turf, we all see it and know it. There is a point though discussing spring, growth and recovery and how it is such a deceiving time. There are two key points that dictate spring growth and therefore recovery from a period when literally no grass growth occurs.
The first is soil temperature. Winter leaves us with cold soils that do not allow most plants to even metabolise let alone grow. Couple this with cold overnight temperatures (April has seen 6 nights so far with sub-zero minimum temperatures) and growth will be slow.
The second is lack of moisture and the drying of the soil, funnily enough after the wet of winter! Through late winter and early spring there is a tendency for winds from the north and east to be more common. The source of this air is the arctic whether it be Scandinavia or Russia which are quite cold. As this cold air moves west towards us it crosses the North Sea which is at its coldest in March, so this wind gets another chill from crossing the ocean. Cold air can hold much less moisture than warm air so this air is dry and the rate of evaporation can be high.
Put these two situations together and we get our typical spring conditions, cloud free (sunny) days due to lack of humidity, rapidly drying land, relatively low levels of rainfall and most importantly temperatures below those required for plant growth. The sunny days are deceiving; patience is required in spring.
As a consequence of the spring climate discussed above, we will see some bumpiness to the greens surfaces through spring. There are two causes for this situation. First, bentgrass begins growing at lower temperatures than poa so while the poa is sitting low and not growing the bent has had its head up and is pushing on. Second reason is the seedhead production of poa which is just beginning now. Seedhead production takes a fair proportion of energy from the annual poa plants and hence stifles growth of the leaf, compounding the slow start it has from low temperatures.
Image right: Tall, frosty bentgrass contrasting low, dormant poa on 17 green, April 2022
We are seeing damage to a few fairways as crows are looking for chafer grubs. As I’m sure I have voiced in the past there are no longer any control products available to any turf managers across the UK. This is an industry-wide problem and I am seeing quite severe damage being inflicted to sites, both golf and sports fields, across the country.
There are some bright sparks across the industry doing their best to come up with solutions but for now my thoughts are that increasing aeration intensity to affected areas may either drive the grubs deeper or physically damage them enough to reduce their numbers. One successful solution is the use of parasitic nematodes that target only chafer grubs but these really only work well when there are very serious levels of grub infestation thus allowing the nematodes to spread throughout the grub population.
What we will keep doing is blowing debris from the surfaces and once there is enough damage to allow we will divot the areas with a fescue seed and divot mix.
Image left: Bird damage to 5th fairway April 2022
We have topped some of the larger areas of long rough to take out the old material and allow fresh growth for the spring. Areas that we haven’t topped are generally quite light, thin growth.
When topping we adjusted the height of cut to over four inches (100mm) to allow a safe passage over the small wildlife that is resident in these areas. We will recommence grazing of these areas later in the year once the spring wild flowers have past their prime.
Image right: Long rough area after topping on 10th hole
Yours in sport.